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IAL Basis Project

The IAL Basis Project is an open project currently underway on the Auxlang-Dialog mailing list.

The IAL Basis Project is an open project to explore the common ground between the major systems of international auxiliary language. Its main task will be the identification and codification of features common to the major language systems.

Project Definition

The aim of the project is to identify the common ground between the major IALs.

IALs can be thought of as Trial Solutions to Problem Situations identified by their proponents. The first aim of the project will be to identify what is common to these Problems Situations. The project will then move on to identify what is common to the Trial Solutions, that is the languages themselves. The project will use a Reference List of languages (to be defined elsewhere) which will serve as the basis for comparison.

In any solution to a problem, there is on the one hand a Fixed Canon or established basis for a solution, and on the other hand Flexible Strategies, different ways of approaching a solution within the Fixed Canon. The aim of the project is to codify a Fixed Canon for IAL design, thus narrowing the range of possible language systems.

The solution to any problem can be thought of as being approached within an established theory. This theory can be seen to be equivalent to the Fixed Canon for solutions to the problem. The aim of the project is therefore also to formulate a theory of IAL design, within which future language designers could work.

Project directors: James Chandler, Jay Bowks

Participation: Open to all (in principle)

Project forum: Auxlang-Dialog list (auxlang-dialog@yahoogroups.com)

Project website: http://bowks.net/basis

James Chandler 29-Jul-02


Previous Work: The 1930 Study

In 1930 the International Auxiliary Language Association (IALA) held a meeting of interlinguists in Genève. One of the products of this meeting was a list of ten features common to the systems of demonstrated usefulness as recognized by IALA at that time. Those languages were: Esperanto, Ido, Nov-Esperanto, Novial, Occidental, Latino sine Flexione. The ten common features identified were as follows:

1. Alphabet.- All ILs use Latin characters.
2. Pronunciation.- All ILs agree in principle in the pronunciation of the following letters: a, e, i, o, u ("continental" values, u as in Italian, not as in French); b, d, f, h, k, l, m, n, p, r, t, v.
3. Substantial roots.- The substantial roots (expressing things, actions, qualities) of ILs represented are, as a matter of fact, drawn chiefly from the Indo-European languages.
4. No vowel changes.- None of the ILs represented at the Conference permit vowel change within the root itself.
5. Plural.- All ILs represented form the plural by an ending. In each IL there is but a single method of forming the plural to which all substantives conform. No IL has a separate form for a dual number.
6. Expression of "dative".- In all ILs represented the normal way of rendering the "dative" of inflected languages is by using a preposition of direction (Lat. ad.).
7. No gender in substantives or adjectives.- Substantives have no grammatical gender, but can be made to show distinction of natural sex. Adjectives have no gender and normally show no distinction of natural sex.
8. Conjugation.- In every IL represented, one single paradigm of conjugation is provided to which all verbs conform.
9. Tenses.- There is no distinction of person or number within the finite tenses of the verb.
10. Prepositions.- Prepositions as such do not govern any particular case of the noun.

See the article Interlinguistics by Otto Jespersen (1931) for more details on the Genève meeting.

IALA also drew up comparative texts for the systems of demonstrated usefulness. See Otto Jespersen - Comparative Texts by Henry Jacob.


Reference List

The following provisional Reference List (or RefList) of languages has been decided on:

Esperanto by L. L. Zamenhof (1887)
Latino sine Flexione by Giuseppe Peano (1903)
Ido by the Delegation for the Adoption of an International Auxiliary Language (1907)
Occidental-Interlingue by Edgar de Wahl (1922)
Novial by Otto Jespersen (1928)
Interlingua by the International Auxiliary Language Association (1951)
Glosa by Ronald Clark and Wendy Ashby (1981)

The rationale for this list is to adopt the systems of demonstrated usefulness (IALA 1930; see above) and add to them any languages published since 1930 which meet the same general criteria. The choice of these latter systems is quite simple: IALA Interlingua and Interglossa-Glosa. Due to the essential similarity between Hogben's Interglossa and Glosa, it is felt unnecessary to take both, and so Glosa may serve as representative of both systems. Lastly, due to the greatly diminished importance of R. de Saussure's Nov-Esperanto since 1930, and the inclusion of two similar languages (Esperanto and Ido), it has been decided to drop Nov-Esperanto from the list. This leaves the seven (7) language systems of undeniable importance listed above.

The advantage of this method of selecting the RefList is that we can be sure that we are building on the previous study of this type carried out by IALA in 1930 (see above). In particular, the list of ten common features identified in that study will be readily available to the Basis Project as a starting point for the process of identification of common features in the RefList languages.


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